We have always collected information relating to the flavour and other characteristics of our coffee. It’s an invaluable part of our quality control process and a really useful way of assessing our beans, whether we are evaluating samples or seeing how our current offering may be evolving over time - as the green coffee ages, for example.
So, although this was developed for our own internal use - I got to thinking that we may as well share it with you all too. Hopefully it will help you get a better sense of the coffee before you decide to buy it, or maybe it will help you choose.
How does it work?
The diagrams cover two areas, ‘characteristics’ and ‘flavour’.
This one is pretty simple. We just rate on a scale of 1-5 (1 being low/none, 5 being ‘loads!’) the extent to which each of the descriptors were found in the coffee.
This one probably needs a little bit more explanation, so I’ll briefly describe each domain;
Mouthfeel - this relates to how light or heavy the coffee feels in the mouth. The higher the score, the heavier the mouthfeel. A lower score means that the mouthfeel is light, with a tea-like mouthfeel.
Finish - this score relates to the length of the finish, the extent to which the coffee lingers in your mouth. A long finish will usually be sweet and creamy, like eating toffee. A short finish could be something like what you experience when drinking black tea. A higher score suggests a longer finish.
Acidity - here we are scoring from low/mild acidity (1) to a ‘slap-you-in-the-face grapefruit mega-zing’ (5). I should trademark that.
Sweetness - a low score here would indicate that the coffee has a more savoury than sweet feel to it.
Complexity - low score, low degree of complexity. This is the ‘number of things going on’ in the coffee. It’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing and we find that it is the balance between these elements that is usually more important than the quantity of them. Different people also have very different preferences as far as complexity goes too - this subjectivity is the reason why we don’t tend to rate ‘balance’.
Impression - this is a description of where the coffee sits on our Comfort/Adventure scale. 1 being highly comforting, 5 being ‘wild’. It’s the mmmmm > wow scale. Again, not good or bad but just our impression.
It's important for me to stress here that these scores are not high or low, good or bad - we're just using these numbers to try to communicate what we find when we taste our beans. No doubt you'll have your own preferences (enjoying lots of acidity or not, for example), so hopefully the diagrams will help you find coffee that you are more likely to enjoy.
For those of you that want to think even more deeply about coffee flavour, I’d suggest using this 'Taster's Flavour Wheel' from Counter Culture Coffee as a really excellent starting point, it covers much of the same ground and is a great way to start thinking about using words to describe sensory experiences.
My hope here is that you find some of this information useful, and it would be great to hear from you whether you do or don’t - we’re always open to suggestions on how we can improve the information we provide. Thanks for reading!